Saturday, 8 December 2018

A History of the Wheel of Time Part 10: The Conquest of Seanchan and the War of the Hundred Years

The Conquest of Seanchan
Early in FY 993, fishermen who worked the Aryth Ocean off the eastern coast of Northern Seanchan were stunned to see a group of huge white-sailed ships appear out of the rising sun. These ships bore two banners. One was of three golden hawks in flight, formerly the Royal Flag of Shandalle and now the Imperial Flag of the Hawkwing Empire. The second was of a golden hawk clutching three lightning bolts in its talons, the personal sigil of Luthair Paendrag Mondair, eldest son and heir apparent to Artur Hawkwing, the High King of the Westlands.

Hundreds of ships arrived. Warships, cargo carriers and troop transports, more than two thousand vessels bearing over three hundred thousand settlers and soldiers to a new world. This vast fleet made landfall off the coast hundreds of men waded ashore to secure the boats and begin the weeks-long task of establishing a foothold on the continent.

Luthair sent out scouts to examine this new land in more detail. Mountains rose to the south and west, but this coastal area was relatively flat and sparsely populated. Only when the scouts ranged further afield did they run into trouble.

This continent was known as Seanchan to its inhabitants. Two and a half thousand years earlier, at the end of the Breaking, Seanchan had been overrun by Shadowspawn. The Aes Sedai who found themselves trapped here after the Breaking did battle with them, founding kingdoms and training thousands of troops to fight them. Even then they might have been defeated had not the Aes Sedai discovered several Portal Stones in this land. Travelling to the other dimensions beyond, weavings of the Wheel that had been abandoned, they found numerous exotic and savage beasts which they could tame and train. These creatures proved the equal of Shadowspawn in battle and with their aid the Aes Sedai annihilated them almost entirely, rendering Trollocs and Myrddraal extinct on the continent. The continued to serve in Seanchan armies, where Luthair’s forces mistook these creatures for Shadowspawn and thus named them "the Armies of Night."

Luthair learned that the Aes Sedai could not agree amongst themselves on how to organise and began fighting wars and skirmishes with one another. At the time Luthair arrived almost every single nation on the continent was engulfed in warfare, a shifting quilt of borders, names and dynasties. Virtually all of these nations were ruled by the self-proclaimed "Aes Sedai."

This division initially failed to work in Luthair’s favour, since even the small kingdoms to the west of his landing point had dozens of channellers of the One Power amongst their ranks whilst Luthair, thanks to his father's persecution of Aes Sedai and siege of Tar Valon, had none. The early victories that gave Luthair control of a small region along the north-eastern coast and won him the city of Imfaral and its great fortress, the Towers of Midnight, came only at the cost of thousands of his irreplaceable troops.

Luthair may have despaired and considered withdrawing from the continent, but he was then approached by a renegade Aes Sedai named Deain. Deain claimed to have invented a device which could control Aes Sedai, a device she called an a’dam. When attached to the neck of a female channeller it rendered her unable to channel (and if she tried to remove the device she suffered intolerable pain). Even better, when placed around the wrist of a woman who could learn to channel (but did not have inborn ability), it enabled her to control the Leashed One, or damane. The Leash-Holder or sul’dam, of course, did not need to be aware that she could learn to channel.

Luthair was pleased with the offer and, after some negotiation, gained the secrets of a’dam manufacture from her. Working with Deain and using the a’dam, Luthair seized all the lands north of the immense waterway that cleaved the northern part of the continent in two, extending north to the Mountains of Dhoom (a westward extension of the same mountain range in the Westlands) and the Aldael Mountains. Thanking Deain for her assistance, Luthair then placed an a’dam on her and locked her in a cell in the Towers of Midnight.

Luthair's armies invaded the southern landmass, seizing the huge northern peninsula and its greatest city, Seandar. From Seander Luthair could strike at any one of a dozen small countries to the south, but he lacked the necessary manpower, so had to recruit from the locals and their armies of exotic beasts. Backed up by damane, Luthair's army became an unstoppable force. The other nations of Seanchan failed to unite against him, their divisions being too strong.

Luthair continued the War of Conquest for the rest of his life. He died decades later in the Imperial Palace of Seandar (which would later be renamed the Court of Nine Moons). Before his death he claimed the title of Emperor of Seanchan and committed his heir and their heirs to the Corenne, "The Return", a return to the home continent to see if the Hawkwing Empire still existed. If it did, trade relations were to be opened. If not, then the Seanchan would rebuild it in the name of the High King, Artur Paendrag Tanreall and his son, Emperor Luthair Paendrag Mondair. Luthair was succeeded by his son, who in turn was succeeded by his daughter.

The War of Conquest lasted a long time. It took three hundred years before the Seanchan Empire was able to lay claim with confidence to the entire continent, and an additional two hundred years to crush the last major resistance to its rule. However, no empire rests ever easy and occasional rebellions continued to take place; the latest, on the island of Marendalar, took place less than a generation ago and saw 30,000 people killed and 1.5 million enslaved.

Several decades ago, the Seanchan Empress Radhanan (only known as "The Empress" due to custom) concluded that the Empire was stable enough to support the long-prophesied Corenne. The construction of immense fleets was ordered all along the eastern coast of Seanchan, thousands of ships taking shape in dozens of ports. The Corenne fleet itself would be the equal of the fleet Luthair led across the Aryth Ocean almost eleven centuries earlier, and would be heralded by the Hailene or "Forerunners", a reconnaissance-in-force of the Westlands consisting of 500 ships, tens of thousands of soldiers and dozens or hundreds of damane. The command of the Hailene was given to the noble Lord Turak of House Aladon, one of the most respected military commanders on the continent. The command of the Corenne would be given to the Empress’ chosen heir, the then-unborn Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag.

Decades in the building and planning, the Hailene fleet was dispatched eastwards in 997 NE. Its destination: Falme, on Toman Head.

The War of the Hundred Years & Founding of the Modern Nations
Meanwhile, whilst Seanchan was falling to Luthair’s armies, his own homeland was in utter turmoil.

Hawkwing’s death had left a void. All his children were dead or presumed lost beyond the seas. His one surviving grandson, Tyrn, was missing, presumed dead. Hawkwing had no brothers or sisters and hence no nephews or nieces. All his uncles and aunts were long dead and most, if not all, of his cousins perished of old age or in his campaigns.

Some thought that Endara Casalain, as ruler of the largest province of the Empire, Andor, should become High Queen, but she refused. It seems that Endara was a capable administrator but a rather timid woman of limited ambition. She certainly didn’t want the throne. Attention shifted to Marithelle Camaelaine, one of Hawkwing's most senior administrators. Marithelle’s claim was strengthened by the endorsement of Jalwin Moerad, the High King’s closest advisor upon his death. However, she was strongly opposed by Norodim Nosokawa and Elfraed Guitama. Their arguments in the Imperial Court became infamous and in the end they could no longer remain in the same room. They left within hours of one another to return to their home provinces and begin raising armies.

Endara's fiery-tempered and ambitious daughter Ishara responded to the crisis with more alacrity then her mother. Ishara was a passionate, ambitious woman who believed absolutely in the integrity of the Empire. She was also a realist and could see that without a clear line of succession the Empire was doomed. To save the Province of Andor she needed an army and, fortunately, one was relatively close at hand.

Upon the death of Hawkwing Deane Aryman, Amyrlin Seat of the Aes Sedai, parleyed with General Souran Maravaile, commanding the Siege of Tar Valon in Hawkwing's name. Aryman convinced Maravaile that with Hawkwing dead the siege no longer served any useful purpose. Maravaile agreed, but he had his orders and a personal promise made to Hawkwing upon his death-bed. Thus, the siege continued.

Ishara Casalain arrived to talk with Souran Maravaile. Some parts of the besieging army had already broken away to follow the standards of Marithelle Camaelaine, Norodim Nosokawa or Elfraed Guitama, whilst others had simply returned home. Souran agreed with Ishara’s assessment that the army would simply disintegrate if he sat there and did nothing. With great sorrow at breaking his oath to Hawkwing, he gathered together all the elements of the army that he could and headed for Caemlyn. With the general and the greater part of their forces gone, the rest scattered to the winds. After nineteen years the Siege of Tar Valon was at last over. Within days Aes Sedai and their Warders would be riding to the courts of each of the provinces to retake their positions as advisors and to try to avert the catastrophe they could already see looming.

Some say that had Maravaile lifted the siege after Hawkwing’s death, Aes Sedai mediation may have prevented what was to follow. This is possible, though unlikely. Upon her return home Ishara, regretfully, announced that Andor was now a sovereign nation with its capital at Caemlyn. She raised her own personal flag, the White Lion, as the Royal Banner of the Kingdom of Andor and declared the Empire of the Hawkwing to be at an end.

Within weeks other provinces-turned-nations had followed suit, whilst Marithelle Camaelaine declared herself the High Queen and seized control of the Imperial Capital and much of the surrounding territory. The War of the Hundred Years had begun.

The first battles erupted along Andor’s borders as armies loyal to the memory of Hawkwing attempted to unseat Ishara as a usurper. Under Maravaile’s inspiring leadership the newly-formed Royal Army resisted these attacks. Ishara, however, commanded him not to try and hold all of Andor, just Caemlyn and the surrounding territory. As anarchy erupted in all parts of the land, she knew it would be wiser to hold what she already had and spread out from there rather than try to seize everything at once. It is known that before long Souran and Ishara married, though all historical records agree it was a love-match as well as a politically expedient wedding.

The Borderland Provinces broke away within months of the start of the war. From west to east these provinces were Saldaea, Kandor, Arafel, Shienar and Malkier. After some border clashes, these five nations were distracted by a series of Trolloc raids out of the Blight. Realising that the Shadow might take advantage of the chaos of the civil war to the south, these five nations formed the Compact of the Borderlands and agreed to defend the Westlands from Trolloc incursions for all eternity, if necessary. The architects of the Compact of the Borderlands were Lady Mahira Svetanya, Lord Rylen t’Boriden Rashad, Lord Jarel Soukovini, Lady Merean Tihomar and Lord Shevan Jamelle, respectively the first rulers of Arafel, Saldaea, Kandor, Shienar and Malkier.

Marithelle Camaelaine was assassinated several years into the war. Jalwin Moerad shifted his allegiance to Norodim Nosokawa. Norodim perished several years later and the lands he had seized fragmented and fell apart. After several years of warfare the nation that Norodim had tried to forge had fractured into several constituent parts, all at war with one another.

After this point it becomes meaningless, if not impossible, to chart the course of the War of the Hundred Years. Nations would form and disappear again in a matter of months. Battles would be fought with tens of thousands of casualties, yet these would barely be footnotes. Whilst well into the millions of soldiers died during the one hundred and twenty-three years of warfare, far more civilians perished as they were caught in the crossfire. Even spread across a century and a quarter, the population of the Westlands was significantly reduced during the conflict.

During the war the nations of the modern era, plus ten additional ones, came into being. Andor was initially held as only being the area around Caemlyn, but by FY 999 it had expanded to the River Erinin in the east and the River Cary in the West. It held at these borders for some time, until four rulers brought armies against Andor in FY 1063 and were defeated by Queen Maragaine’s forces at the Battle of the Four Kings. Afterwards a town, also called Four Kings, grew up on the site of battle and Andor’s border began moving further west at higher and higher speeds. By FY 1100 or thereabouts Andor had reached its modern-day borders.

During the early part of the war all of Souran and Ishara’s sons died and, after Souran’s death in FY 1017 and Ishara’s in 1020, it was left to their eldest daughter, Alesinde, to become Queen. By the end of the war it had become traditional for only Queens to sit on the Lion Throne of Andor. Sons became First Princes of the Sword, army commanders and bodyguards to their sisters, but none were permitted to take the throne. Part of Andor’s success at survival came from having the approval of the Aes Sedai. As well as relieving the siege, Ishara promised to send her daughters to Tar Valon to be trained in the arts of politics by the Aes Sedai, and for her sons to be trained in the military arts by the Warders. Thus was forged the long-standing alliance between Andor and Tar Valon, an alliance that was to endure a thousand years.

After Norodim Nosokawa’s death Jalwin Moerad attached himself to Elfraed Guitama and advised him until FY 1013, when Moerad suddenly vanished without a trace forty years to the day after first appearing in the Imperial Court. Without Moerad’s advice, Elfraed’s war effort faltered and he was slain.

Several of the modern nations came into existence relatively early in the conflict. Lord Istaban Novares and Lady Yseidre Tirado of the Province of Moreina declared the existence of the sovereign nation of Tear within months of Hawkwing’s death. Initially holding just the Stone of Tear, they seized the rest of the city within a few months and most of the rest of the nation within a decade. The political cooperation between the Tairen Great Houses which made this possible saw them band together as the Council of High Lords, but as the threat of war receded from their borders the political in-fighting which would characterise Tear for a millennia got underway. Similarly within a few months of Hawkwing’s death a group of nobles in Cairhien Province seized control of the city of Cairhien and declared the re-founding of the nation of Tova. However, another group of nobles opposed to the plan had all the surviving descendants of the Tovan Counsellors murdered at a dinner held to inaugurate the new nation and declared the founding of the Kingdom of Cairhien under King Matraine Colmcille.

Some other nations took longer to form: Tarabon, for example, was not founded until FY 1006 by Queen Tazenia Nerenhald and Panarch Haren Maseed (ranks inherited from the former kingdom of Balasun). In FY 1109, Lord Kirin Almeyda was declared King of Ghealdan, with the support of Lady Valera Prosnarin, Lord Cynric Talvaen and Lady Iona Ashmar. King Maddin founded the nation of Altara at an unknown point during the war.

One of the most infamous legacies of the war is the military organisation known as the Children of the Light. This group was initially founded in FY 1021 by Lothair Mantelar as a semi-religious group dedicated to sniffing out Darkfriends and proclaiming subservience to the Light, but as the war spread the Children found themselves fighting just to survive. By FY 1111 or thereabouts the Children had become a fully military organisation. Mantelar was convinced that Aes Sedai were Darkfriends, since they had caused the Breaking of the World and dabbled with the One Power, which was the province of the Creator alone. These beliefs were passed onto the rest of the Children, who began hunting down Aes Sedai and Warders as vigorously as any genuine claims of Darkfriend activity. The Aes Sedai, in response, mocked the Children’s fanatical ways and their white uniforms, insultingly calling them "Whitecloaks." However, after the Children actually managed to kill an Amyrlin Seat (whose identity has never been confirmed) the Aes Sedai never made the mistake of underestimating them again.

The war waxed and waned, but after the first fifteen to twenty years or so most rulers admitted that there was no hope of seizing all of what had been the Empire. In anger, they tore down all the monuments they could find to Hawkwing, hoping people would forget that there had been a time of peace and prosperity under the rule of one man. Of course, the people did not. In the end a jealous ruler even destroyed the great monument at Talidar, even though Hawkwing’s name was not even mentioned on it (though his symbol was inscribed at the summit).

There were three major attempts later in the war to restore the Empire. The one that came closest to success was from the Aes Sedai. In FY 1084 Deane Aryman was on the verge of convincing the twelve most powerful rulers in the land of accepting Aes Sedai leadership as a means of restoring unity when she suddenly fell from her horse and broke her neck. The subsequent Amyrlin, Selame Necoin (Green Ajah), failed to capitalise on this near-success and the opportunity for peace was lost.

The warrior-queen Esmara Getare conquered all of what is now Illian and the Plains of Maredo before attempting to invade Andor circa FY 1090. She failed and spent the last twelve years of her life as the "guest" of Queen Telaisien. The nation she forged broke apart and Lord Nicoli Merseneos assumed control of Illian, becoming its first king.

Around FY 1110 Narasim Bhuran, who had conquered much of what would later be Altara and Murandy, attempted to take Illian and was crushed, his head ending up on a pike. This was the last major attempt by any one ruler to conquer his neighbours. After this point most rulers concentrated on holding onto the land they already had seized and quelling internal dissent. The War of the Hundred Years finally petered out in FY 1117.

As with the Trolloc Wars, the War of the Hundred Years had depopulated most of the subcontinent and seen many cities and records burned. So great was the destruction that it wasn’t entirely clear what year it actually was. The confusion became so great that the Gazaran Calendar was abandoned circa FY 1135 and replaced by the Farede Calendar, which counted the years as being part of the New Era (NE).

The end of the War of the Hundred Years brought great relief and celebrations to the continent, but also dismay. The unity and focus of the years of Hawkwing had ended, replaced by bitter divisiveness. The Aes Sedai were less than they had been, unable to command the respect and authority they once had and now challenged by the proselytising of the Children of the Light. The death toll had been so great that even the population level of the continent had dropped precipitously, and would continue to fall over the next thousand years.

Please note that Parts 11-12 of this series are also available to read now on my Patreon page and my other blog, Atlas of Ice and Fire, is currently running a Wheel of Time Atlas series.

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